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East German nudists let it all hang out


It has nothing to do with sex," insisted Udo Schumacher, 64, as he
stood, stark naked, on a beautiful but bracing beach in Prerow in what
was once Communist East Germany.

"If you go in and experience how lovely it is to swim with a naked
body, and come out without wet trunks on, you feel healthy. And if you
can get over the fact that you are naked, it is great," he told AFP
back in August.

"Freikoerperkultur" ("free body culture"), or FKK for short, was
hugely popular in the otherwise highly restrictive German Democratic
Republic (GDR), much more so than in West Germany.

And 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall this November 9, the
habit is still going strong, and has even attracted a loyal band of
followers from what was West Germany to the beaches of the east.

With life so tightly controlled in other ways - no freedom of speech,
little freedom to travel, the Stasi secret police spying on citizens -
FKK was a rare liberty of which people made full use in the GDR.

"It was one of the few liberties," said Schumacher, who is from
Dortmund in the west. "I get the feeling that people in the GDR said
to the authorities, 'Don't take this away from us as well'."

Nowhere was this more evident than here in Prerow, a picturesque
seaside town 300 kilometres (190 miles) north of Berlin, with its
long, pristine beaches, sand dunes and crystal-clear, if chilly,

Here in GDR times, 2,500 border guards, 70 watch towers, searchlights,
barbed wire, boats and radar all made sure no one escaped by sea to
West Germany or to Denmark, Doris Pegel, 53, curator of the local
museum, said.

Sailing and even surfing were off limits. But one thing people were
allowed to do in the shadow of Prerow's watchtowers, and on other
beaches and lakes around the communist country, was to indulge in FKK.

And indulge they did, in huge numbers, as people flocked to the
seaside in summer and gave FKK a try. In Prerow, for example, nudists
created one of the GDR's first nudist campsites, where demand for
pitches was massive.

When the GDR was still young, however, the Politburo saw FKK as a
hangover from the Nazis and as dangerous petty bourgeois degeneracy,
Josie McLellan, a modern history lecturer at Britain's University of
Bristol who has researched the phenomenon, told AFP.

Such suspicions were not helped by events in Prerow, where nudists
gathered on the beach and the sand dunes at night, daubing body parts
with toothpaste and wearing African-style headgear for debauched
"Cameroon Parties."

With the ministry of the interior calling nudism a threat to the
"natural and healthy feelings of our working people", the authorities
tried to stamp out FKK in the 1950s.

But many nudists were also party members, policeman and even judges,
who protested that "doing FKK" and being a good communist were not
mutually exclusive, and that nudism was non-sexual.

"Here, the woman is not an object of desire, she is a comrade, there
is no bikini to excite you," McLellan cites one contributor to an
illuminating 1966 survey of nudists as saying.

A widespread campaign of popular resistance soon made the authorities
relent, and by the 1960s and 1970s onwards FKK was almost a national
pastime that was even encouraged by the regime.

It became much more popular than in both Western Europe and in the
rest of the Eastern bloc, with the possible exception of the beaches
of Croatia in the former Yugoslavia.

This was because although nudism was tolerated, belonging to any kind
of nudist organisation was banned. Such logic made FKK more popular
since people could just give it a try, without having to join a club

As one joke put it: "What do you call a gathering of two or more GDR
citizens? An illegal meeting. Or a nudist beach."

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, Doris Pegel was in West Germany,
and remembers phoning home in Prerow and being told that, along with
everywhere else in the GDR, there were joyous scenes.

"I was told, 'They're surfing on the beach in Prerow'," Pegel said.

But of the many things to flood eastwards after German unification in
1990, one of the less welcome was a certain prudishness towards nudism
on the part of the curious new "Wessi" ("Westerner") tourists.

The result was an effort to regulate the hobby more, and to demarcate
beaches and lakes into FKK and clothed areas.

A look around in Prerow today shows that although the GDR is long
dead, the old spirit of FKK has survived.

"Here it's all very mixed because people don't have a problem with it.
It's supposed to be separated but nobody really minds," said 66-year-
old nudist Inge on Prerow beach.

A naked Werner Tallen, a 60-year-old lawyer, meanwhile insisted with a
smile that he travelled the 825 kilometres (510 miles) from his home
in Munich "because of the Baltic, not because of FKK."


Link: Prerow

Interesting article. Thanks Danee!

Nice summary of nudist history of Germany.

I have a funny anecdote from 1954.

The writer Anna Seghers was swimming naked when her wide by Johannes R. Becher (poets and politicians) cried: "Shame on you not, you old sow?"

He had not recognized her. When Johannes R. Becher her a few weeks later, the National Prize first class with the words "My dear Anna" handed, Seghers said the clearly audible to all: 'For you still have the old sow'. :D


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